The Character of Corporal Homer J. Wheaton, first recipient (posthumously) of the American Distinguished Service Cross.
Orphaned in his teens but a member of one of the oldest families in Onondaga County, Homer J. Wheaton attended Manlius Military Academy and was considered by many to be a “born soldier” with a particular aptitude for military tactics. He earned “High Honors” at the Academy and went on to attend Syracuse University. Having just returned from the war with Mexico, Wheaton went to France with Company G of the 101st Infantry in 1917 when the United States entered World War I.
To provide an idea of the character of young Wheaton, it is most appropriate to use his own words. When asked by a friend why he volunteered, Wheaton replied in a letter shortly before shipping out:
“I have neither father, mother, wife, nor child. And, it seems to me that by going across to fight I can take the place of some poor fellow who has a mother or a wife to mourn for him and who, by my volunteering, will be given a chance to stay at home with those who are for him… I have no hallucinations about what we are going up against over across but if it’s my hard luck to remain over there, why, it isn’t the worst end for a man”.
He was exceedingly well liked and a hint of his sense of humor is evidenced in another letter from training camp when he wrote, “Just eight lines to let you know that I am still very much alive, although perhaps not the best risk in the world from an insurance standpoint”.
In addition to the first Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest honor that can be bestowed by the U.S. military) in American history, Corporal Wheaton also received the prestigious Croix de Guerre from France. He is buried in the American National Military Cemetery at Seringes-et-Nesles (Aisne), France, not far from the scene of his death at Chemin Des Dames. Homer Wheaton Park and Playground in Syracuse are named after him.